Artichokes: Every Day in Every Way

Left: Matured artichoke blossoms on sale at the Orinda, California, farmers’ market show off their electric-violet chokes (photo by Barbara Kobsar). Right: At the daily farmers’ market in Padua, Italy, September 2019 (photo by Cheryl Angelina Koehler).


Here in Northern California, where the nation’s supply of globe artichokes is grown, harvested thistles are always piled high at market stands. The plants also grace many front yards, where some home gardeners let some of the blossoms mature in the early months of summer in order to enjoy the electric-violet color of the hairy choke. Seeing them in yards always reminds us of Kimber Simpkins’s artichoke story in our Summer 2009 issue in which she admits to liking to let her own artichoke flowers mature. She also like to cook with the thistles, and she gives recipes for four different preparations for artichokes.

How to Prep a Globe Artichoke
On a visit to the daily farmers’ market in Padua, Italy, in September 2019, Edible East Bay publisher/editor watched expert vendors carve up artichokes at a rate of about one per minute. All those lucky customers could pop the pared thistles right into a cook pot at home. Unfortunately, we don’t find them thus prepared here in the East Bay, but if you follow these instructions from Edible Ojai & Ventura County often enough, you may get to be a real pro at it like the Italians are.

Where Do Baby Artichokes Come From?
A baby artichoke is literally just that—an artichoke picked when it’s still small enough that it has no choke, the hairy unformed center of the flower. That center turns purple, just like a wild thistle, when it blooms and then white and fluffy when its seeds emerge to be spread by the wind. An artichoke seed drifting by when seen out of the corner of your eye is easily mistaken for a fairy. On your dinner plate, the choke is far less romantic and can taste like a small amount of soggy fur. Once you have pulled all the leaves off an artichoke, you can avoid this unpleasantness by cutting the soft surface leaves and fuzzy choke center off the top of the heart using the edge of a spoon or a knife.